License Testing Prior To The VE System

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by K6CPO, Mar 24, 2020.

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  1. K1LKP

    K1LKP Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

  2. KA7RRA

    KA7RRA Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    It sounds like the same type of people at the DMV office when you get your license renewed.
    they all seem to be stiffer as a board and don't smile or have a seance of humor almost like robots
  3. K1LKP

    K1LKP Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

  4. KA7RRA

    KA7RRA Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I took my novice test at North Seattle Community Collage from Harry and Marry Lewis I took my tec at the federal building from a old lady named misses Wilson and passed
    I bashed that test.
    I went to Milton Free Water and took the code for my general class and passed,I think that was the 1st VEC test section they had in Oregon
    any body in Seattle remember Mrs Wilson??
  5. K1OIK

    K1OIK XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    No it was In NYC
    K1LKP likes this.
  6. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    It should be remembered that, from early 1953 to late 1968, US amateurs with General, Conditional, Advanced or Extra licenses had full privileges. Four of the six license classes then had exactly the same privileges.

    All it took to get a General or Conditional back then was passing 13 wpm code and a single written test of about 50 questions on very basic theory and regulations - and the regulations were simpler then. The Novice license was NOT a prerequisite. Once you had a General or Conditional, you were "set for life" - until "incentive licensing" came along in 1968. But that's another story.....

    I have ARRL License Manuals from 1948, 1951, 1954, 1962 and 1971, and I've read them all. The study guides in them are interesting....they don't test on enough electronic knowledge that those who passed the exam would have be able to build their own equipment, nor even really understand much about the radios of the time. A foundation....sort of.....but not much of one. Nor did they test for understanding. And the study guides didn't change much over time; most things were the same for many years. The biggest reason there are so many versions of the ARRL LM was regulations and exam schedule changes, not changes in the tests.

    The study guide for the 1962 General written test consists of 108 questions and answers, which take up only 14 pages of the License Manual. Some have diagrams, a few have calculations. Memorize those 14 pages and one could almost certainly pass the written test.

    The questions are almost entirely about transmitters, power supplies and filters of various kinds, and regulations. The only modes involved are AM voice and CW radiotelegraphy. (There is exactly one sentence about SSB, and all it says is that an SSB signal is about half the bandwidth of the equivalent AM signal). Everything is tubes, even though transistors had been around for at least 14 years in 1962.

    There were no - ZERO! - questions at all about receivers, transceivers, repeaters, satellites, RTTY or any data mode, SSTV or any image mode, solid state of any kind, frequency synthesizers, VHF/UHF, RF exposure, pi-networks, SWR, or antenna tuners. There was exactly one question involving transmission lines and antennas - it was part of a draw-a-diagram question, and all that was involved was showing a two-wire balanced line feeding a Hertzian dipole.

    Out of those 108 questions and answers, exactly 4 require the use of a formula - three of them involve figuring out frequency accuracy, and one is an Ohm's Law problem. There is no trigonometry or complicated math at all - no sines, cosines, phase angles, imaginary numbers, etc. There are some questions asking for a formula, but they don't require that you actually solve any problems with it.

    In fact, much if not most of the material is pure memorization - diagrams, formulas, regulations, Q signals, band edges, power limits, definitions, etc. Also some very basic concepts, such as why a triode RF amplifier needs to be neutralized.

    There's a big lack of practical info, too. There's a diagram of a full-wave center-tap rectifier circuit with capacitor-input filter, but no testing of how to determine what size filter choke and capacitors to use. In 1962, practically all HF ham rigs used pi-network output circuits, but there was nothing in the tests about how to design or use a pi-network.

    Operating procedures? Not much at all. Band edges, Q signals, and put your own call last. That's about it.

    To someone learning the stuff for the first time, with no background in radio, electronics or electricity, those old tests might SEEM "harder" or "more technical" than today's tests do when looked at by someone with decades of experience. But....were they really? I think not.


    1) Starting in 1961 and finishing no later than 1967, all the written exams were transitioned to multiple choice. This was done both to reduce FCC workload and to eliminate any chance of subjective grading. The Novice was always multiple choice.

    2) With multiple choice exams, FCC has never cared how you got the answer as long as you don't cheat. You could figure out the answer from first principles, use various shortcuts and rules of thumb, memorize the correct answer from the pools or License Manual, or just plain guess - FCC only cares if you get the right one and don't cheat. You don't have to explain and you don't have to show your work.

    3) All the written tests were made public in the early 1980s with the introduction of the VE system. For a few years before that, if you were willing to pay $20 for a Bash book, a very close approximation of the written tests could be bought.

    4) The passing grade has always been 74%. This means it has always been possible to earn the license and yet have huge holes in one's knowledge.

    5) All questions have the same weight in the scoring.

    6) There is no penalty for guessing wrong. In some multiple choice tests with N answers per question, a correct answer is worth N points, a question that is not answered is worth 0 points, and a wrong answer is worth -1 point. So if someone just randomly guesses at a question, they will not, on average, raise their score. But with the way US Amateur Radio license tests are scored, random guessing can indeed boost a score, and it can't hurt.

    The Big Point is that when you look at those old License Manual study guides, it's clear that the knowledge needed to pass the tests of those times wasn't as comprehensive nor as detailed as some would have us believe. I 1962, SSB was commonplace, as were transceivers and pi-networks, yet the license tests for full privileges mentioned none of that.

    And when some say the current testing is "dumbed down", I say: "Let's see you take the current tests, with no preparation, and see how YOU score. If they're SO easy, an experienced ham should get 100, right?"

    Very few takers.....
  7. N2HUN

    N2HUN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Took my General license test at FCC office at 201 Varick St, NYC. First the written, then the code receiving test, then had to send code with examiner listening. Then waited several weeks to get license in mail as there were no instant privileges if you passed.
  8. K1OIK

    K1OIK XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I took the General there in 1960, it was always code first, if you didn't pass the code they didn't waste a written test.
  9. N1ZZZ

    N1ZZZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Great stories! The old FCC testing reminds me of taking the USCG merchant marine exams now.
  10. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I agree about the ships' horns.

    I don't recall hearing any, myself, but see how that would be very possible based on the office location overlooking the Hudson River on the West Side near Greenwich Village. Actually, probably "in" Greenwich Village, now that I think about it, since I recall after passing the General test I celebrated by walking to Washington Square Park which was very close by and getting a hot dog from a street cart vendor there. I think the dog was $0.55 at the time. With mustard and sauerkraut.:)

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